Saturday, 27 August 2011


Poets √Čireann Lorsung ( and Laressa Dickey ( will lead the retreat, offering two craft talks and several other activities (morning yoga, writing exercises, individual tutorials/workshops), all of which are completely optional.

Although both leaders are poets, you don’t have to be a poet to come along. Both √Čireann and Laressa are versed (so to speak) in other forms and happy to welcome prose writers of all stripes.

The retreat will take place from Friday, September 16 at 5 p.m., until Sunday, September 18, at noon. The cost of the retreat has been subsidised by Writing East Midlands; it is £50 for a shared room or £70 for a single. This covers accommodation and all food.

Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, and places are very limited, so please book early
check out

Friday, 26 August 2011

Writing for the stage;workshop with Nick Wood

For more details and to book, use the attached leaflet/booking form or visit

Saturday 24 September 2011, 10.30am–4:30pm, followed by dinner at 5pm.

Location: Nottingham city centre.

The price (£75, or £50 for NWS members) includes a buffet lunch and a light dinner with the tutor and other participants.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Good Companions

I was checking on Iplayer radio the other night after I'd caught up the the Samuel Pepys readings from Woman's Hour and found The Good Companions.

And I was straight back to sitting on a train going from home to my first job in Preston.  Being plonked down among thousands of books in the headquarters library of the county was like dying and going to heaven.  My pick of whatever they had. 

Priestley's The Good Companions was probably unfashionable to read even then but I loved it.  The train journeys passed in a flash and sometimes I resented getting to the destination because I wanted to go on reading. 

I've read many books that I wouldn't dream of going back to, some by very eminent writers, but I've reread this book so many times over the years.  A battered copy sits on my shelves and last night I pulled it out, after I'd listened to two episodes and started reading again.

The radio version is worth listening to for Philip Jackson if nothing else.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Productive early morning

It's just after seven and I've been awake for over an hour.  Good night's sleep and woke up with the next bit of my novel in my head so fired up the laptop and wrote for an hour.

I do try not to work in my bedroom, I think most of the time that should be reserved for relaxing activities.  But I wanted to catch that fleeting moment.  I suppose I could have just made a few notes and gone back to it later but it seemed too good a mood to waste.  Now I feel virtuous.

I know some of these ways of working are artificial constructs to persuade me to do the work, and I have felt quite lazy recently, but I do sometimes set myself targets.  Like this week I wanted to write ten thousand words of the novel draft.  I may end up junking the lot afterwards but I always feel getting something down on paper or on disc in this case, is better than nothing. 

So far I'm up to about eight thousand so with another couple of days to go I'm doing okay.  I suppose the argument could be about not so much the quantity but the quality.  But I think the quality often comes in the editing process.  At this stage I just want to get the stuff out of my head and somewhere I can look at it.

I'm with Arnold Bennett who day in and out wrote a thousand words before lunch.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Are you an insomniac writer?

Last night I had one of my rare sleepless nights.  And I admit up front they are rare and last night there was a reason I woke in the middle of the night; some of my family arrived home from a holiday at 2am. 

Now I don't blame them for the sleepless night, though by the end of today I might feel irrational enough to do just that. And one of my friends who does manage on short amounts of sleep laughs at my occasional outings in the night hours.  But having dealt with circumstances which led to a long period of interrupted sleep, I know that I adjusted better to that than an odd night here and there.

If you think I sound self pitying, I stand guilty as charged but I don't want only to have a moan.  I want to consider how the emotions raised by not sleeping can be put to use in writing.

Of course there's the purely practical task of filling the time till you can stop pretending and get up.  I have worked out a routine for that; tea, digestive biscuits, the radio, music only, and a book.  At some point some combination of the elements kicks in and I'm back to sleep.

This morning at five I stopped pretending and got up taking my laptop with me.  Because of the late arrival I knew I couldn't begin to have a normal day for a longer time than usual.  So I started to write.  And as it happens I was about to write a section of a novel that dealt with the frustrations of being in a certain situation.


Everything poured out of me.  Didn't end up in me sleeping again but it gave me a direct link to the feeling in the gut when you'd like to blame someone, can't and for the sake of family harmony daren't. 

I may end up junking the piece on edit but I certainly enjoyed writing it..

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Be a Piano Star on the Royal Concert Hall Stage, 30 August 2011

If you’re a pianist you’ve probably dreamt that one day you’d perform on a grand piano on a concert hall stage. Well, on Tuesday 30 August Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall is giving you the chance to do just that when it opens the lid of its magnificent Steinway Model D piano to talented pianists in the East Midlands.

How does it work?

The event is open to experienced performers (minimum Grade 7). To take part you’ll need to book a performance slot. 30-minute and 60-minute slots are available from 12.00am until 3.00pm and 4.30pm – 8.30pm. The sessions will all be recorded so that you have the option of taking away a CD at the end of your performance. If you want to use the slot to record a video then that’s fine, too – you’ll just need to provide your own camera and operator.

What does it cost?
A half hour slot costs £40 and an hour slot £70.  A recording of your performance on CD costs £15 and will be available 30 minutes after the session.

For more information and how to book

Call 0115 989 5505 or email Please note that depending on the demand your first preference for a slot may not be available.

(Information taken from email from Royal Concert Hall)

Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham NG1 5ND

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Eve Garnett The Family from One End Street

My sister gave my great niece this book recently and I started to re-read it.  First met when I was 11 and oh I loved it.  I identified with one of the characters Lily Rose who was full of ideas, not good according to her mother and tried to be helpful, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

I don't think she ever said, but my Mum probably disapproved in some way of the Ruggles family  Too large, noisy and to her mind disorganised.

Being rather clumsy but well meaning I felt I'd have fitted in there. In some ways they were a junior version of the Larkins family and I've always loved the idea of them.  That kind of expansive, outrageous behaviour though Mrs Ruggles often was mortified by what Lily Rose did.  (The green petticoat)

It was a great joke in our family that every holiday would be marked by  me falling, walking into something or doing something silly.  When I think back it was because I was interested in what was happening around me, so I walked into a lamppost because I was paying attention to something I'd seen.

These days I'd defend my behaviour by saying I was developing a certain kind of social skill.  The kind that absorbs what happens around you.  Like sitting in a waiting room and checking who comes in every time the door opens.  Not everyone does that and they say it can give clues for ideal jobs. 

That's my excuse anyway.  Maybe that's why I became a librarian when I left school. Or maybe it was just the lure of the books.

Monday, 1 August 2011

New resolutions

I've just checked when I last posted and it's two weeks.  How the time has slipped away.

In my defence we are in the middle of a family visit with an active and noisy 8 year old and last week we were in London.

The idea of being in London I love.  The actual experience I often find exhausting.  Over the years I've learned to do things in small chunks. 

A few pictures in a gallery looked at with attention
A concert somewhere with time to spend in the area around the concert venue.
Time to appreciate and savour a good meal in a restaurant suddenly discovered.

So my highlights this time were:

Where we stayed - a couple of hundred yards from the Southbank complex..
A trip to Hampton Court with the pleasure of journey back by boat..
An Out to Lunch concert at the Cadogan with Steve Fishwick, Jeremy Brown and Tom Cawley.
A walk across St James's and Green Park.
A lunch taken with a friend.

And just to prove I'm not too much of a wrinkly, an encounter with screaming girls waiting for an X-Factor boy band coming out of ITV Studios.  Loved their energy and just for the fun of it some of our party screamed too.

Literary wise, we did go to The Cherry Orchard at the National Theatre which left us feeling somehow unsatisfied.  Like trying an old favourite of a perfume and it no longer smelling the way you want it too.  Good acting, strange updated language and a set that was neither updated nor completely contemporary to when the play was written.

Enjoyed seeing James Laurenson again, after his recent performance in the Hamlet with Rory Kinnear.